The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins have battled in so far what can only be called the greatest playoff matchup ever.
I appologize for my recent absence. I suffered a grade two concussion late Sunday night and have not been able to concentrate too well up until a few days ago. Consequentially, I am a bit behind.
Never fear though, your loyal Penguins blogger, while still possession numerous egg shaped lumps on his head, is once again fit to write.
Here are some notes and thoughts from Game 2 and Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Final matchup between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins:
Game two notes:
- The Penguins have been playing the body on Ovechkin, Semin, and Green from the onset.
- The Penguins have been hoarding the Capitals net – screening and crashing Varlamov at every possible chance.
- The Penguins converting their first powerplay chance was huge – almost as big as the Penguins killing off the Caps first powerplay.
- Players like Sergei Gonchar have been physical on D as well as aggressive on the puck.
- Mid-way through the third period the Penguins have dismantled the Caps offense and transition game. Primarily by forcing the play to the middle of the ice and taking away the puck-carrier’s lanes.
- I know hindsight is an interesting thing but I immediately knew that the refs were going to give Letang a penalty whether he got to the puck or first. It’s an easy garbage call that they almost have to make. I see Letang practicing that play, him catching up, diving on the ground, and slapping the opponent’s puck out of their hands in a last ditch effort is for better or worse something he does with frequency. As said before, you can’t really fault the refs for calling that penalty though.
- The Pens have demonstrated elite level penalty killing so far.
- Bruce Boudreau was openly disappointed in his team’s retaliatory penalties. Understandably so, they were moronic. The Penguins have forced their will thus far with a little more than five minutes left in the first.
- The Capitals’ crossbar and posts were impressive in the first, as was the goaltender between them. The Penguins had easily five uncontested shots in the first that Varlamov stopped.
- Marc-Andre Fleury has been disgusting in the first though and will have to play at a similarly disgusting level for the length of the series if the Pens hope to get to the next round.
- There is no denying the individual talent of Oveckin. As in the opening game, Ovechkin and Crosby have posted goals for their respective squads.
- Mario is looking sharp with a playoff beard. Those in Pittsburgh have taken to the playoff beard years ago and it has become a ritual for sports fans unto themselves. Many also grow playoff beards during the NFL playoffs.
- Ovechkin has averaging over a minute-per-shift. This is far, far too long for a forward to be playing during the playoffs. It is not as though Ovechkin plays a laid back defensively minded game either. His high-octane style of play combined with long shifts will have a cumulative effect as the season goes on.
- After Crosby scored his second goal one has to wonder if the 21-year-old superstar is going to try and win this series single-handedly. He started the play with a dump in, after Kunitz retrieved the puck Crosby went straight to the Caps net. A few passes later Crosby is hammering a rebound passed Varlamov.
- The Penguins absolutely seized the momentum of the game after the Crosby goal. Then David Steckel scored.
-Ultimately, this will go down as one of the greatest Stanley Cup Playoff matches in NHL history – regardless of the game’s outcome.
Game three notes:
- The gaffe by Fleury and subsequent goal by Ovechkin was the worst possible thing for the Penguins to have in the opening period of game three.
- The Penguins have lacked urgency for the majority of the game.
- If the Penguins go on to win game three, the goal by Ruslan Fedotenko will go down as yet another clutch goal scored by the enigmatic European.
- Federov’s wrist/rib injury could bode well for the Penguins as the season goes along. He did return however after appearing on the bench in agony.
- The Penguins have been exploiting Ovechkin’s willingness to skate out of position and created opportunities as a result.
- The Jordan Staal line has been effective mid-way through game three in their ability to suffocate the opposing defense with their forecheck. Still, they have yet to produce a goal for their efforts.
- The sustained pressure of the Penguins has been insane as the second period winds down.
- The Capitals have not appeared to be particularly physical in game three. I don’t know if this is a conscious effort or not but it is noticeable in the considerable dropoff in physical play. Their play has dropped off as a result.
- Geno’s goal in the third was the result of a man single-handedly taking over a game in the third period. He created the play that drew the penalty and then scored the goal on the powerplay. I was ready to say, “This is a situation where it really is about the numbers” but Geno silenced me with that powerplay goal.
- Brian Pothier committed quite a faux pas in overtime and sent the puck over the boards in his own zone.
- This might be the greatest playoff match I have ever seen. These teams are so evently matched and both loaded with brilliant, flamboyant talents.
- Honestly I have never seen a true superstar matchup such as this. I have watched a lot of superstar hockey too. Sure, you could call players like Spezza, Heatley, or Datsyuk superstars but you’d be kidding yourself. Malkin, Crosby, and Ovechkin are NHL superstars. Generational talents matching up in what one can only hope is the first of at least a decade of matchups. It would be a travesty if this game was to go anything but seven games.
- It was fitting Kris Letang got the game winning goal as he was thoroughly banged up in game two and misplayed the puck all-too-often in game three.
- Have I mentioned yet how this could be one of the greatest playoff series I have ever seen in my entire life? These teams are mirror images of eachother.
About the Author
Written by Ian Altenbaugh